Beast rider A boy's journey beyond the border

Tony Johnston, 1942-

Book - 2019

Having faced great danger, twelve-year-old Manuel finally succeeds in hopping a train out of Mexico but after reuniting with his brother in Los Angeles, he realizes something is not right.

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Subjects
Genres
Action and adventure fiction
Published
New York : Amulet Books [2019]
Language
English
Item Description
Includes glossary (pages [160]-167) and authors' note (pages [168]-171.)
Physical Description
181 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
ISBN
9781419733635
141973363X
Main Author
Tony Johnston, 1942- (author)
Other Authors
María Elena Fontanot de Rhoads (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

A Mexican boy makes the treacherous journey to Los Angeles to find his older brother in this timely novel. Manuel loves his family, his dog, and his dusty corn plot. But he dearly misses his older brother, Toño, who hopped the train to America. Despite the dangers of riding "the beast"—it can dismember hopeful riders as they try to board, and its passengers often face violence from police and gangs—Manuel hops the train, too. During his three-year journey, Manuel meets with both violent cruelty and extraordinary kindness. When he makes it to Los Angeles and to Toño, Manuel is finally safe, but he wonders if Los Angeles will ever feel like home. The authors do not shy away from the brutal realities of Manuel's journey, but they also glory in the kindness and love of strangers, giving this harrowing story a balance of fear and hope. Manuel is a resilient protagonist who feels the effects of his traumatic passage but also displays a fierce commitment to finding home, wherever that may be. A tough yet hopeful immigration story. Grades 7-10. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

In this often wrenching story about Manuel, a 12-year-old boy from Oaxaca, Mexico, the authors convey what motivates him to leave his poverty-stricken life to ride "the Beast" (a train heading to the U.S. border) and the hardships he faces during the journey and upon arrival. Told in short, action-packed chapters and in Manuel's distinctive first-person, present-tense voice, the compact tale covers long miles and several years. The brutal narration details constant movement and determined forward motion, despite daunting setbacks: "Here I am on this terror train thundering to The North. I am hungry. I am thirsty. I am tired.... Though crushed against many other people, I am lonely to the bone." Manuel encounters dishonesty, theft, cruelty, gang brutality, and mercenaries, as well as kind strangers, healers, protectors, and friends. Upon his reunion in Los Angeles with his beloved brother, Manuel's traumatic experiences haunt and hinder his ability to adapt to his new home. Johnston (Bone by Bone by Bone) and de Rhoads (a psychotherapist and debut author) offer a sympathetic, illuminating portrait of the challenges faced by one undocumented immigrant. Ages 12–up. (Mar.) Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly.

Review by School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 4–7—The train that passes near Manuel's family farm in Mexico is called The Beast, and Beast Riders are those who jump onto this moving train headed toward the U.S. Manuel has a loving family, but life on the farm is difficult, and he longs to be reunited with his older brother who reached Los Angeles four years earlier. He slips away from home one night at the age of 12 and becomes a Beast Rider himself. Although Manuel knows the ride will be challenging, he is not prepared for the cunning tactics of thieves and gangs; he is beset by violence multiple times, and his severe injuries prolong his journey. With the help of kind strangers and a group of smugglers hired by his brother, Manuel finally arrives in Los Angeles at the age of 15. Their reunion is joyful, but Manuel struggles to become accustomed to life as an undocumented immigrant in a large city and must decide whether this new life is really what he wants. This story feels personal and real; it does not romanticize or try to fully tackle the complex issue of immigration. Manuel narrates in a frank, unflinching manner, using a well-crafted combination of short, abrupt thoughts and longer descriptive sentences. Spanish words and phrases are woven expertly throughout the narrative. Back matter includes a glossary of terms and their English counterparts, as well as an authors' note giving context about real-life Beast Riders. VERDICT Told directly and effectively, this story gives readers an opportunity to be present for one young man's harrowing journey as an immigrant to the U.S.—Sarah Reid, Four County Library System, NY Copyright 2019 School Library Journal.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"To be reunited with his brother, twelve-year-old Manuel will have to cross the border and survive the perilous journey from Mexico to Los Angeles"--Provided by publisher.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Twelve-year-old Manuel leaves his small town in Mexico to join his older brother in Los Angeles. To cross the US border, he must become a 'beast rider''someone who hops on a train. The first time he tries, he is stopped by the Mexican police, who arrest and beat him. When he tries again, he is attacked by a Mexican gang and left for dead. Just when Manuel is ready to turn back, he finds new hope. Villagers clothe and feed him, help him find work, and eventually boost him back onto the train. When he finally arrives in LA and is reunited with his brother, he is elated. But the longer he's there, the more he realizes that something isn't right. Thrilling and heartfelt, Beast Rider is a coming-of-age story that reveals how a place and its people help to define you.  

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Twelve-year-old Manuel leaves his small town in Mexico to join his older brother in Los Angeles. To cross the US border, he must become a “beast rider”—someone who hops on a train. The first time he tries, he is stopped by the Mexican police, who arrest and beat him. When he tries again, he is attacked by a Mexican gang and left for dead. Just when Manuel is ready to turn back, he finds new hope. Villagers clothe and feed him, help him find work, and eventually boost him back onto the train. When he finally arrives in LA and is reunited with his brother, he is elated. But the longer he’s there, the more he realizes that something isn’t right. Thrilling and heartfelt, Beast Rider is a coming-of-age story that reveals how a place and its people help to define you.